Thursday, February 26, 2009

Welcome to "The Seed"

Welcome to The Seed! I decided The Seed would be a fitting name for the N.E.W. LIFE blog for several reasons:

1. Though seeds are small and largely unnoticed, I hope that the seeds of thought shared here will land on good soil and bear good fruit with much increase.

2. It is time to redeem the much-maligned carbohydrates! In the onslaught of the popular carbo-phobic diets of the last decade we would be wise to remember the nutritional powerhouse of the seed, and the grains that grow from them.

3. Jesus said in John 12:24-26: "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." My hope is that the sacrifices I have made for the past 18 years will yield a harvest of good results now.

Americans are suffering an epidemic of lifestyle diseases, largely a result of eating an unhealthy diet in a "land of plenty"--24 million Americans have diabetes, another 57 million have "pre-diabetes", and "adult onset" diabetes has made a surprise appearance in children; 70 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular disease; 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese. We are clearly in trouble.

No doubt there will be blog entries in the weeks and months ahead describing the most effective way to support behavior change. To introduce and summarize here, the N.E.W. LIFE philosophy is not just a "non-diet approach", but the very opposite of a diet.

When people evaluate what is missing in their diet and even just begin to put in missing fruits, vegees, beans, nuts, seeds, and fish, the "fluff" foods get crowded out and people are surprised at how quickly their desires change without any all-or-nothing dietary changes. The most effective change is realized by sticking in foods, even one at a time, not eliminating foods people have been eating for years and then expecting them to eat more vegetables! Adding missing healthy foods to the diet provides for a more stable blood sugar, which defends against bingeing and craving, and the body simultaneously gets the fuel (calories) and nourishment (protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals) it needs to be healthier. Furthermore, behavior change and healing from underlying emotional pain is often hard work. It is futile to try to do the hard work of behavior change and emotional healing if we are not starting from a basis of health and strength. It is like knocking our head against the proverbial brick wall to try to change eating behaviors, not to mention exercise, when we are not giving our body what it needs to be healthy, and when blood sugar is low and our body is screaming for sugar. By focusing on what to stick in instead of what to cut out, our bodies, tastes, and desires change. This is the opposite of eliminating desirable foods and then expecting yourself to eat more vegetables (a plan which most people find ineffective at best).

Secondly, what has always been an optimal diet, still is, and always will be an optimal diet--it is not going to change. It is our understanding of nutrition that is doing the changing, and the broader we set our sights beyond the original 4 walls of our nutrition research labs to understand what healthy cultures around the world eat, the closer we get to understanding what an optimal diet is. Since we have begun to do that we now understand that healthy cultures throughout the world eat a strikingly similar diet (in a variety of ways) based on 90% plant:10% animal food. Not only are diets of healthy cultures predominantly plant food diets, they are high, not low, in plant fats. The traditional Greeks, who ate a 40% fat diet based predominantly on olive oil, were arguably the healthiest people on the planet in the 1960's when the traditional Mediterranean Diet began to be studied. Is it any wonder then that the Mediterranean Diet has become the prototype for the changing American dietary recommendations?

Thoughts for believers . . .

As a dietitian working with people to prevent lifestyle diseases for the past 23 years I have noticed another type of "heart disease", and I think it is growing. Over 50% of every class I teach has an out-of-balance (or outright addictive) relationship with food, often fueled by unresolved emotional pain. While I desire to help any individual become free from bondages to food, body image and the diet mentality, and although I have an extensive resume in working with the culture at large, I have a special burden for the church. Because of this, those who visit this website will undoubtedly see articles, Nutrition Bites, or entries on this blog that are intentionally Christian. While the N.E.W. LIFE Dietitians and I may clearly define our faith we are not exclusive--our compassion and desire to help extends to all individuals, no matter their beliefs, and the N.E.W. LIFE programs have been carefully developed for a diverse audience. Having said that. . .

Recently I have been amazed and disturbed at the lack of discernment of believers who engage in popular diets with as much allegience as non-believers, not even realizing how misplaced their well-intentioned efforts are. For example, most believers who are caught up in weight-loss efforts (as the culture is) do not even realize that overwhelming evidence shows that body fat, while often associated with lifestyle disease, has never been shown to cause disease and, furthermore, that in the effort to produce weight-loss individuals actually increase their risk for earlier mortality. As one who spent 15 years in an addictive relationship with food (bingeing 5x/night), body image, diets, exercise, and the scale I am not here to judge, only to share the truth which sets us free, and to let people know they can be free indeed--a topic for many future blogs to be sure. And I am not saying that if you lose weight you will necessarily die earlier! Weight-loss as a by-product of eating healthier and exercising more will not kill you. Dieting, on the other hand, especially yo-yo dieting, has been shown to be harmful. Furthermore, Americans have been duped, a large number of Christians included. People have come to believe that they must lose weight in order to be healthy (this is not true) and have largely without question followed the current popular diet in order to achieve that goal. The problem, however, is diets wreak physical, emotional, and spiritual havoc:

Diets don’t work. The diet often leaves individuals worse off than if they had never been on a diet. People generally regain the weight with more besides.

Diets offer false hope and leave people more discouraged and feeling like a failure.

Dieters often try again, and again, and soon succumb to a "diet mentality" which results in bondage to food, body image and diets.

Diets not only appeal to a "diet mentality", but also to a short-sighted mentality that is pervasive in America. We are a nation with a growing appetite for short-sighted immediate gratification, often with little or no regard for the consequences. Parents succumb to materialism as children are sacrificed. Adultery abounds with little regard for the likely consequences to the marriage and children. Gluttony is rampant while long-term health takes a back seat. Greed overrode common sense restraint for many home buyers and mortgage companies contributing to a current economic crisis and the subsequent loss of homes for millions of American families. Short-sighted pleasures of all kinds are increasingly available from erotic television and movie viewing to addictions such as pornography and gambling with no regard to the not-too-long-term affect on character. Similarly, diets may appeal to an increasingly short-sighted society since the weight will come off, but with no regard to long-term weight and health, much like a good percentage of the population has been handling finances, even families, with little or no regard for the future. So I must ask believers--are you walking in the Spirit with the fruits of patience and self-control, or are you looking for a quick fix?:

Recently the popular diet books have been filled with anti-God philosophical agendas that have nothing to do with nutrition. Popular diets have become increasingly full of non-nutrition secular agendas and the authors often boldly profess evolution upon which they base their diets right in their books. Yet many a creation-believing Christian still dedicates themselves wholeheartedly to the author’s advice. I ask myself how can this be? Did they just not read the book completely? Is it because the author is an "expert" and has offered multiple scientific, physiological and biochemical explanations? Are they even aware of "where the doctor is coming from" philosophically and/or spiritually? Do they even care??? It has frustrated me and boggled my mind for a long time, however, when I read Romans 12:2 it makes perfect sense:

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

Many in the church do conform to the world’s pattern of popular diets and are not able to test and approve what God’s will is. The more we conform to the pattern of the world the less discernment we have—it is God’s way and it is set in His Word. Furthermore, many a well-meaning Christian tries hard to be "disciplined" and have "willpower". I am all for encouraging individuals towards more discipline, but people have lost the discernment regarding the difference between the futility of willpower vs. the fruitfulness of discipline. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, not of ourselves. Paul writes to the Colossians:

"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." Colossians 2:20-23

It amazes me that Christians continue to engage in popular diets even given this truth. Perhaps it is unfamiliarity with the Word of God that is the real problem. The more one feeds on the Word of God the more discernment.

Besides the futility and physical harm of dieting, I am also concerned about what else gets "slipped in" because of a lack of discernment. For example, there are multiple carbo-phobic testimonies in the recently wildly popular book The South Beach Diet, even a "distrust" of all carbohydrates. In contrast, Jesus calls himself the "living bread". If we do not receive Him we cannot have eternal life or life as it is meant to be, in its fullest. He is the ONLY way. All other attempts fall short and are merely counterfeit and temporary solutions. So why would Jesus use the analogy of bread to describe himself if bread is bad for us and something to be avoided? It would be akin to him saying, "I am the pork of life." Interestingly, the South Beach dieters testify that they must keep bread out of their diet for the rest of their life, as if bread is the "tempter". If we come to believe we must keep bread out of our life, then could it be only one small associative step away from keeping Jesus out too since he calls himself bread? Maybe that's a stretch, but at the very least it might cast more confusion and doubt on God’s Word for using such a "useless" analogy.

Food for thought . . .


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